Transportation Dept. Uses Bridge Closure to Press for Obama Jobs Package

By Susan Jones | September 12, 2011 | 9:11 AM EDT

The Sherman Minton Bridge spans the Ohio River, connecting southern Indiana with Kentucky. Officials closed it on Friday, Sept. 9, 2011 after they discovered cracks in the steel.

( - The Obama administration is seizing on a traffic nightmare in southern Indiana to prod Congress to pass President Obama's jobs bill.

On Friday, the State of Indiana shut down the Sherman Minton Bridge after finding cracks in the steel. The I-64 bridge connecting Indiana and Kentucky spans the Ohio River.

The Transportation Department blogged that the bridge closure is "one more reason" to pass the American Jobs Act, which President Obama is sending to Congress on Monday.

"Modernizing the half-century old Sherman Minton Bridge is long overdue. Fortunately, President Obama has a plan--the American Jobs Act--to help Indiana, Kentucky, and other states' critical roads, bridges, and transit systems across the country.  The President's plan would put our friends and neighbors back to work, modernizing our roads, upgrading our runways, and repairing our rails," said FastLane, the official blog of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The blog notes that over the years, the U.S. has "failed to devote appropriate resources" to maintaining the nation's roads and bridges. It says the American Jobs Act can put "good workers supporting good families" to work right now. "Congress must approve it," the blog concludes.

Monday-morning commuters trying to cross the Ohio River between Indiana and Kentucky encountered a traffic nightmare, the Associated Press reported. Local media showed the traffic backup stretching for miles in southern Indiana.

Obama's plan includes $50 billion to upgrade highways, transit, rail and aviation. It will make immediate investments of at least $703,000,000 in Indiana that could support a minimum of approximately 9,100 local construction jobs, the White House said.

Republican leaders, in a letter to President Obama on Friday, said as soon as the House receives the actual text of the bill, "our committees will immediately begin the process of reviewing and considering your proposals."

They also warned Obama not to make this an "all or nothing" proposition. "The American people expect us to bring together the best of both parties' ideas, and it is our desire to work together to find common ground between your ideas and ours."

Last week, House Speaker John Boehner indicated that funding infrastructure projects is one area of possible agreement with the president.